Crime in Japan: Paradise Lost? by Dag Leonardsen

By Dag Leonardsen

Japan is usually defined as an inclusive society, and yet the media reports record highs in crime and suicide figures. This book examines legal justice in Japan, and questions no matter if Japan particularly is dealing with social malaise, or if the media are easily making a 'moral panic'. 

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The phenomenon called NEETs is an abbreviation for Not in Education, Employment or Training, and applies to a growing number of young Japanese (aged 18–35 years) who do not hold any type of job (regular or temporary) and who do not even try to get one. Originally this concept was coined in Britain, but was introduced in Japan in 2004 by Tamaki Saito (cf. Japan Echo, 2005). Today, almost half a million young Japanese people belong to this group, which represents a smouldering headache for the government.

Of course, such a society would be free of crime. However, ‘faults that appear venial to the ordinary person will arouse the same scandal as does normal crime in ordinary consciences. If, therefore, that community has the power to judge and punish, it will term such acts criminal and deal with them as such’ (p. 100). Durkheim then continues his argument in much the same way as Erikson does, by pointing out with what strong severity an honourable man will judge his own slightest moral failings. And like the Puritans, this man will easily extend the sphere of ‘jurisdiction’ to other members of society and judge them by the same standards.

Reduced to the status of social underdogs, Japanese young people have had no alternative but to become economically dependent on their parents’ (p. xi). 4 per cent. According to this scholar it is not moral explanations, like a change in the work ethic among youth that lies behind young people’s job flipping, but quite simply the recession and the protectionist policy (in favour of the middle-aged and older workers) the government has run. The discussion on these changing conditions regarding the labour market has for some 10–15 years been linked to two concepts: freeters and NEETs.

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